Surrealism, particularly in the form of furniture, is captivating the design industry and bringing a touch of fantasy to interiors.
Surrealism began as a cultural movement in the 1920s, primarily in visual arts and writing, but it’s now finding its way into contemporary interiors.
The whimsical trend is generally defined by items that explore bold colours and feature unexpected juxtapositions and exaggerated shapes through which conventional design elements are challenged.
South Korean sculptor Lila Jang’s recent work reflects surrealism. Jang launched a whimsical collection of furniture inspired by the Golden Age – 18th Century France.
The young designer was inspired by the limited space in her tiny Paris apartment to create furniture that cleverly moulds to fit into tight spaces.
Formal dining chairs share backings and seating pads or are knocked on their side, while an elegant couch climbs up a corner wall.
A cream lounge chair and seating pouf are playfully exaggerated while a chest of drawers perched upon turned legs has one drawer falling out in a tongue-like fashion.
Surrealistic lighting is also full of personality, cantilevered off walls and ceilings, appearing to float through spaces. Jang’s fluid collection is often likened to the whimsical features found in Lewis Carroll’s book – Alice in Wonderland.
The young designer is renowned for transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, allowing furniture to remain functional while being structured in a quirky way.
“My work represents who and where we are as human beings: in the midpoint of that constant struggle between reality and the ideal,” Jang said.
Jang studied design and Fine Arts in Paris in Seoul and has participated in numerous exhibitions worldwide, including her most recent solo exhibition at the Centre Culturel de Coreen in Paris.
She isn’t the first designer to explore this enchanting trend of late; surrealism is growing in popularity as the market looks to more unique, customisable and artful furniture.
Indiana company Dust Furniture, by designer duo Vincent T Leman and his wife Jessie Leman, shares a similar vision.
“Life shouldn’t be bound by preconceived notions or by feeling an unnecessary tie to someone else’s ideas. So when I design furniture I try to reference traditions without being bound by it,” Vincent Leman said.
Dust Furniture works to evolve traditional furniture into “extravagant accent pieces” constructed from high quality hardwood veneers and solid wood edgings that are made to order.
The company’s cabinets, bookcases tables and décor all exude personality and movement, curving in unconventional manners, serving their function while being aesthetically abstract.
Another furniture designer who has brought surrealistic furniture to the industry for over 25 years is Judson Beaumont of Straight Line Designs – a tongue in cheek company name.
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Beaumont creates furniture, installations and sculptures that aim to prove that “anything is possible.”
Beaumont’s imagination runs wild with some of his pieces, including Little Black Dresser, a chest of drawers hung and designed as a little black dress. His Squiddy and Burnt Table designs feature table legs that mirror their names. Squiddy features a multitude of legs echoing those of a squid’s tentacles while Burnt Table’s legs appear to have burnt off half way.
Canned bench is also a favourite, featuring a lounge bench that appears to have its lid “pulled back” (similar to that of a tin can) to reveal a comfortable seating pad and a small cantilevered shelf for a drink.
Beaumont also features a collection of cabinets and mirrors that reflect beloved Disney Characters, such as Mickey and Minnie cabinets and a stand-up Goofy Mirror.
It looks like the surrealism trend is here to stay as consumers look to personalise their spaces with unique furniture and fixtures.
Just last year at Australia’s DesignEX, British designer, author and curator Suzanne Trocmé, predicted the movement would be a growing part of furniture’s design process.
“Design product must have balance, form and structure and not avoid its space,” she said. “While design starts with structure, mathematics and how we see, the fact is that we are essentially designed by nature biologically so it’s still important to develop a sense of whimsy and a sense of humour with your products.”